In this area, we will provide you with information on how to prevent becoming a victim of fraud.


Nearly 10 million Americans fell prey to identy theft last year, costing businesses and individuals billions of dollars. Here's how you can protect yourself.

1. UNDERSTAND DEBIT CARD DANGERS. When it comes to fraud, debit cards carry much greater personal liability than credit cards, depending on how quickly you report the loss of the card.

If you fail to report unauthorized activity within sixty days of receiving your bank statements, you could lose all the money in your account and be held responsible for any amount of money that has been tapped from a line of credit.

2. RETHINK CHECK WRITING. That little slip of paper has way too much informatiion.

Some experts even advise against writing checks as they give a lot of personal information (address, bank account number, signature and driver's license) to total strangers.

Additionally, there's no federal legislation to limit your liability for forged checks (each state has its own set of rules). Experts advise consumers to look into automating bill paying.

3. SECURE YOUR MAIL. Your mailbox is a goldmine of information.

Between bank statements, bills, and all those pre-approved credit card offers, your mailbox is loaded with personal data. Identity thieves can easily apply for credit cards in your name. And, unless you diligently check your credit report, you may never even know about it.

One way to guard your mail is to literally lock it by purchasing a mailbox with a lock. And, to foil dumpster-diving thieves, purchase a cross-cut paper shredder and use it.

4. GO VIRTUAL. Extra protection when shopping online.

Introducting virtual card numbers: disposable, randomly generated credit card numbers that online shoppers use once and discard. It's linked directly to your actual credit card account so purchases show up on your monthly bill.

The service is easy to use--and it's free. All you need to do is register. Among the companies offering the virutal card are MBNA, Discover and Citigroup.

5. CREATE AN EMERGENCY IDENTITY KIT. Would you know how to contact your credit card company in an emergency?

Create an emergency identity kit. Write down the account number, expiration date, issuing comapny name and emergency contact for each card you own.

While you are at it, make copies of your driver's license, social security card, birth certificate and passport and store them in a locked file cabinet or safe deposit box.


The Contractor's State License Board (CSLB) has advised us that unscrupulous and unlicenced contractors continue to target mobilehome parks throughout California. Many mobilehome park residents have launched complaints against dishonest contractors who have taken advantage of them. Such scams involve home re-piping, heating, air conditioning, jack repairs, pad changes, and re-leveling.

"Travelers," or clans of illegal contractors move from town to town soliciting elderly mobilehome owners to sign contracts for work. Many times these unsuspecting residents are talked into repairs that are unnecessary and when the work is performed, it is generally substandard or incomplete. The elderly are targeted because they tend to be more trusting or can be intimidated and feel they must agree to the pitch. Also, because of a lifetime of saving, seniors generally have more cash available or equity in their homes. Unfortunately, when they become the victims of scams, many elderly are reluctant to file a complaint as they feel it might reflect upon their ability to handle life situations.

In order to combat these scams, the CSLB created a Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) which has been successful in various undercover sting operations throughout the state. Bands of unscrupulous and illegal contractors have been cited and misdemeanor notices have been issued for court appearances.

If anyone offers you a "free" inspection, please take heed! Check their contractor's license number with the CSLB and verify that the license number, business name and business address match with information given by the contractor.

Anyone performing contracting work in excess of $500.00 MUST be licensed by the CSLB. In order to become licensed, contractors must have worked at least four years in their selected field, pass a two-part examination, post a license bond, and provide worker's compenation insurance for their employees.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 278,000 contractors. It is interesting to note that the CSLB investigates 25,000 complaints against contractors annually. If you wish to launch a complaint against a contractor, or suspect contractor fraud, please call 1 (800) 321-2752 or go to

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